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ATHENS, Ohio -- The Ohio baseball team (8-6) visits Huntington, W. Va., on Tuesday (March 14) to renew its longtime rivalry with Marshall (8-6) in a 3 p.m. ET matchup at Kennedy Center Field.
The Bobcats and the Thundering Herd are set to square off three times in 2017. Ohio is scheduled to play Marshall on April 19 in a neutral-site matchup at Prasco Park in Mason, Ohio. The Bobcats will host the Thundering Herd on May 9 at Bob Wren Stadium in the final game of the season series.
Ohio is 3-2 (.600) against Marshall under fifth-year head coach Rob Smith. In the lone meeting of the 2016 season between the Bobcats and the Thundering Herd, Ohio prevailed, 4-1, on March 9, 2016, in Huntington, W. Va.
PROBABLE PITCHING MATCHUP
Tuesday: Ohio R-Jr. RHP #27 Michael Klein (Highlands Ranch, Colo.) vs. Marshall Jr. RHP #4 Will Ray (Evansville, Ind.) | Gametracker
BOBCATS SPLIT SERIES AT WRIGHT STATE
Ohio split a pair of game against host Wright State last week at Nischwitz Stadium in Dayton, Ohio. The Bobcats suffered a 6-1 setback last Thursday (March 9) but bounced back with an exciting 4-3 victory in 11 innings the following day. Junior right fielder Tony Giannini (Carmel, Ind.) delivered the game-winning two-out RBI double to left field in the 11th inning to plate senior pinch runner Mateus Vakuda (Sao Paulo, Brazil), propelling the Bobcat to victory.
OHIO TAKES WEEKEND SERIES AT WESTERN KENTUCKY
After dropping a 5-4 decision on March 3 in the weekend series opener at Nick Denes Field in Bowling Green, Ky., the Bobcats bounced back with a pair of 3-0 victories on March 4 and Sunday March 5 to take the three-game weekend set from host Western Kentucky.
Ohio's pitching staff was masterful in last Saturday's win, limiting Western Kentucky to no runs on five hits and two walks. Junior southpaw starting pitcher Butch Baird (Big Prairie, Ohio) improved to 2-0 on the bump this year, tossing 6.2 frames and striking out two while allowing four hits and two walks in his third start. He garnered Mid-American Conference East Division Pitcher of the Week honors for the first time in his career for his effort. Senior righty Jake Rudnicki (Toledo, Ohio) fanned two over 1.1 perfect innings of relief. Redshirt junior right-handed closer Jake Roehn (Sandwich, Ill.) picked up his first save of the season after tallying two strikeouts while permitting one hit in a scoreless bottom of the ninth.
The senior middle infield combo of second baseman Ty Black (Waynesville, Ohio) and shortstop Tyler Finkler (Olmsted Falls, Ohio) did the bulk of the damage at the plate for the Bobcats, accounting for five of Ohio's eight hits. Black went 3-for-4 with an RBI while Finkler collected two hits -- including his second home run of the season.
In the Sunday series finale against the Hilltoppers, redshirt junior right-handed starting pitcher Michael Klein (Highlands Ranch, Colo.), sophomore righty Kenny Ogg (Indianapolis, Ind.), senior right-hander Tom Colletti (Wheaton, Ill.) and Roehn combined to limit Western Kentucky to just three hits and four walks. Klein picked up his first win on the mound of the season, fanning one while scattering three hits and allowing a walk over five strong innings. Ogg, Colletti and Roehn threw four hitless innings out of the bullpen. Ogg pitched a perfect sixth inning. Colletti struck out two and permitted one walk in two innings. Roehn tallied one strikeout and walked two in the ninth en route to earning his second-straight save, bringing his career total to nine.
STRENGTH IN ARMS
Ohio has established itself as one of the top pitching staffs in the MAC through four weeks of the 2017 season.
The Bobcats rank third in the conference and 95th in the nation with a staff ERA of 4.01, second in the league and 61st in the country with 9.0 strikeouts per nine innings, third in the conference and 64th in the nation with 7.95 hits allowed per nine innings and second in the league and 135th in the nation with 3.94 walks allowed per nine innings.
Ohio's pitching staff has recorded three shutout victories in 14 games in 2017 after posting just one in 52 games in '16.
The tone for the Bobcats' success on the mound has been set up by the starting pitchers. Klein is 1-0 with a team-best 0.64 ERA and is tied for third on the team with Baird with 15 strikeouts over 14.0 innings. He has given up just one earned run on eight hits and four walks. Baird sports a 2.66 ERA and a 2-0 record, fanning 15 over a team-high 23.2 innings while giving up seven earned runs on 18 hits and seven walks. Redshirt junior left-hander Gerry Salisbury (Brunswick, Ohio) is 1-2 with a 3.68 ERA. He leads the team with 22 strikeouts in 22.0 innings on the mound. He's allowed nine earned runs on 21 hits and seven walks.
Roehn has made six appearances, fanning 13 in just 10.0 innings and has yet to surrender a run. He was named MAC East Division Pitcher of the Week for the first time in his career on Feb. 27 after picking up both wins on the mound out of the bullpen in a 6-4 win over SIU Edwardsville on Feb. 25 and a 2-1 win in 13 innings over the Cougars the following day. He did not allow a run in five innings of relief and struck out eight while giving up just three hits and one walk over the two victories. Colletti has made a team-high eight appearances out of the bullpen for the Bobcats and owns a 2.79 ERA with 11 strikeouts over 9.2 frames. Redshirt sophomore right-handed pitcher Nick Kamrada (Grand Ledge, Mich.) and senior southpaw Matt Mikolajczak (New Lenox, Ill.) each own 0.00 ERAs. Kamrada has struck out three in three appearances and 4.2 innings while Mikolajczak has made five appearances and tossed 5.0 innings, tallying two strikeouts. He earned his first career save 2-1 win over SIU Edwardsville in 13 innings on Feb. 26 in Emerson, Ga. Moving to the bullpen after spending the last three seasons as a starting pitcher, Rudnicki ranks second on the team with 18 strikeouts over 11.1 innings of relief and owns an 0.79 ERA. Ogg and redshirt junior righty Cory Blessing (Mayfield, Ohio) have also performed well out of the bullpen. Ogg has made seven appearances and thrown 7.2 innings, striking out six and putting up a 2.35 ERA while Blessing has fanned 13 in four appearances and 8.0 innings and has a 3.38 ERA.
KLEIN DOES IT ALL
In addition to serving as the No. 3 pitcher in Ohio's weekend rotation, Klein is batting a team-best .315 with a team-best .574 slugging percentage and a team-high 17 hits -- including a team-high five doubles and a team-high three home runs -- to go along with nine RBIs, which ranks second on the squad.
On Feb. 20, Klein was named MAC East Division Player of the Week. He put together a huge weekend for Ohio to help the Bobcats come away victorious in three of four games in Lexington, S.C., on the first weekend of the 2017 regular season. Klein led the team in batting average (.400), slugging percentage (.867), hits (6), home runs (2), RBIs (5) and total bases (13).
TAKING BASES OUT FROM UNDER THE OPPOSITION
Senior infielder Tyler Finkler (Olmsted Falls, Ohio) has stolen seven bases in 2017 to match his career high set a year ago.
Finkler is batting .255 with a .373 slugging percentage and a .350 on-base percentage. He is tied for the third on the team with 13 hits, ranking second with a pair of home runs and leads the squad with 10 RBIs.
Smith is in his fifth season at the helm of the Bobcats. Ohio won 23 games during 2016 season. Smith has won 92 games at Ohio and led the Bobcats to a MAC tournament title and an NCAA Championship berth in 2015.
OHIO PICKED THIRD IN MAC EAST
Ohio was picked to finish third in the East Division according to the 2017 MAC Preseason Poll, as announced by the league office on Feb. 16. The preseason poll was voted on by the league's 11 head coaches.
The Bobcats garnered 44 points overall. Kent State was tabbed as the top team in the MAC East Division with nine first-place votes. The Golden Flashes totaled 61 points overall. Miami was picked to finish second in the East Division, tallying 56 points and receiving one first-place vote. Bowling Green (32 points; one first-place vote) and Buffalo (27 points) rounded out the MAC East predicted order of finish.
Ball State totaled 57 points overall and five first-place votes to earn the distinction of being the predicted winner of the MAC West Division. Central Michigan (49 points; two first-place votes), Toledo (36 points; one first-place vote), Northern Illinois (32 points; two first-place votes), Western Michigan (31 points; one first-place vote) and Eastern Michigan (26 points) were picked to finish behind the Cardinals.
The Golden Flashes garnered four votes to win the 2016 MAC tournament title while Ball State, Central Michigan, Eastern Michigan, Miami, Northern Illinois, Toledo and Western Michigan all received a vote to win the league's tournament crown.
ROEHN SHINES IN RETURN
Roehn sported a team-best 2.18 ERA and led the Bobcats with seven saves in 2016 after missing the 2015 campaign due to an injury. He fanned 43 over 23 appearances and 45.1 innings of work while surrendering just 11 earned runs on 42 hits and nine walks. His seven saves in 2016 tie him with Doug Stackhouse (1983) for the fourth-most in a single season in program history.
On Feb. 13, Roehn was named to the 2017 Stopper of the Year Preseason Watch List, as announced by the National Collegiate Baseball Writers Association
RU-DY, RU-DY, RU-DY
Sophomore infielder/catcher Rudy Rott (Holmen, Wis.) returns after a stellar freshmen season. Rott was one of just four Bobcat position players to play in all 52 of Ohio's games during the 2016 season, starting 51 of them.
Rott excelled at the plate for the Bobcats, ranking second on the team in RBIs (39), on-base percentage (.406) and doubles (13) and third in batting average (.319) and home runs (3). He tied for the team lead with 14 multi-RBI games -- including a team-high four outings with at least three RBIs. He also tied for second with 12 multi-hit games
Rott complemented his offensive prowess with quality defense. In 484 defensive chances, he committed just three errors, accumulating a fielding percentage of .940, which tied for the best on the team among players with more than 50 chances. Rott also helped the Bobcats turn two more than any other player on the squad, contributing on 39 double plays.
Rott was named to the 2016 Louisville Slugger All-Freshman Team for his efforts.
Marshall is led by 11th-year head coach Jeff Waggoner, who has seen his Thundering Herd squad win seven of their last eight games and go 5-1 at home so far in 2017. Marshall was picked to finish eighth of 12 teams in the 2017 Conference USA Preseason Coaches Poll.
The Thundering Herd took two of three from Niagara last week. After dropping a 9-3 decision to the Purple Eagles on Thursday, Marshall edged Niagara, 5-4, to even the series the following day, then recorded a 9-6 win in the Saturday (March 11) rubber match.
Marshall boasts four players batting .340 or better. Redshirt senior outfielder Billy Sager owns a team-best .375 batting average. Junior infielder/right-handed pitcher Will Ray, who will get the start on the mound for the Thundering Herd on Tuesday, batting .371 with a .543 slugging percentage and a .532 on-base percentage. He has logged 13 hits -- including three doubles and a home run -- to go along with five RBIs. On the bump, he's 1-0 with a 0.00 ERA and six strikeouts over five innings in his lone start of the year. Senior catcher/outfielder Sam Finfer leads Marshall with five home runs and 14 runs scored and ranks second with 16 hits, four doubles and 17 RBIs. Junior infielder/right-handed pitcher Tyler Ratliff has compiled a team-high 18 hits, five doubles and 20 RBIs and is tied for second on the squad with three home runs. He is hitting .340 with a .604 slugging percentage and a .379 on-base percentage. Ratliff and junior right-hander Brad O'Connor are tied for the team lead with two saves apiece.
After playing its first 15 games away from Athens, Ohio opens up its home slate at Bob Wren Stadium by hosting Siena for three games over two days this weekend. The Bobcats will play the Saints in a Saturday (March 18) doubleheader beginning at 1 p.m. ET. Ohio and Siena conclude the weekend set on Sunday (March 19) in a noon ET matchup.